Photo courtesy of Misþyrming
Iceland's extreme metal scene is probably the most interesting and unique in the world right now (with apologies to Ireland, who's also kicking some serious ass on that front) and Misþyrming is one of the best examples of just why that is. Originally conceived as a solo project by prolific Reykjavik musician D.G., the band (whose name is ponounced "Mæs-tær-meing") has expanded and grown into a formidable live force, and caught the attention of devoted black metal aficionados across the globe. I was lucky enough to see them at last year's Eistnaflug festival in Iceland, and ever since I emerged from the abandoned factory they literally destroyed with black metal, have been chomping at the bit to hear more of their commanding, hypnotically melodic take on black/death chaos.
Luckily for me (and for anyone else who's interested in the best the underground has to offer), Misþyrming's debut full-length album, Söngvar elds og óreiðu, is out today, released in a joint effort by Fallen Empire and Terratur Possessions. The album is now available as a digital download or on vinyl, and you can listen to the record in its entirety right here. Trust me on this one:
Noisey also spoke with guitarist, vocalist, and original creator D.G. about Iceland's version of the Black Circle, international festivals, and the perils of island life.
You've been working on this album for awhile now, and it shows—the album pulls together all the chaos and distortion into one cohesive whole, and unlike so many other "extreme " albums, it sounds as though there is a definite artistic vision at the heart of it. Can you tell me a bit about the album?
D.G.: Söngvar elds og óreiðu is my first serious expansion as a developing musician. My aim is to simply make art. I'm not trying to get any message around, nor please anyone. I view music and other arts as something that has an impact on the mind beyond the everyday life. Anyone consumes a piece of art how he or she pleases. To me, music is a kind of meditation, and black metal is a powerful one that I've been inspired by a lot through the times. I don't create Misþyrming's music for anyone other than myself, but inspiring other people is still something that I can enjoy.
Misþyrming began as a solo project, but has expanded into a full band. What was that transition like?
Rehearsing and recording the album was a great experience for me and Helgi, the drummer. During the process, we realized that this should be more than just a studio project. Tómas, who runs the Vánagandr record label with me and plays in Helgi's other band Carpe Noctem, was close to us and offered to help us with playing the material live. Gústaf, frontman of Úrhrak, was also willing to play bass with us. Vánagandr is the clan that unites this clash of those Icelandic black metal bands that share members. Tómas and Gústaf and I play in Naðra. Helgi and Tómas play in Carpe Noctem, and Tómas and Gústaf aso play together in Nornahetta. Tómas and I also play in the depressive doom-black metal band 0.
The result of their involvement on this album was exactly what I had in mind: an aggressive, fierce and vile musical performance.
Between Svartidauði, Sinmara, and now you guys, Icelandic black metal is having a moment. There seem to be common threads running between you all, but Misþyrming is different; there is a lot of triumphant melody on the record. The darkness is illuminated. How do you manage to remain unique in such a small, close scene?
The Icelandic scene is isolated in a way, which I think is why many of us are inspired by similar things. Yet, everybody has a different taste than each other. We listen to the same music often, but everyone has a different perspective on the music. After a good night of record listening, everybody goes home and listens to their guilty pleasures, haha! I sometimes get the feeling that I'm an outlaw among my friends when I say things like that I prefer Funeral Mist's Maranatha to Salvation, or Deathspell Omega's Fas - Ite, Maledicti… to Si Monumentum… but that's maybe an example of why Misþyrming doesn't sound too much like Svartidauði!
How did you first get into black and death metal?
Ever since I was a kid and heard Rammstein for the first time, I've been thrilled by all sorts of metal. Black metal is the genre that I'm most fond of, obviously, but my influences come from all sorts of directions. Don't tell anyone, but I get a lot of influence from the Icelandic electro band GusGus and various hip-hop artists. The Icelandic environment is also definitely something that affects the atmosphere of the music. The weather is a lot of times grim, and our winters are long, icy and cold.
Vinyl edition of 'Söngvar elds og óreiðu' / photo by Taylor Callan Williams
When I first encountered Misþyrming, it was within the context of the Úlfsmessa, the amazingly intense collaborative performance you and several comrades staged at last year's Eistnaflug festival. How is the energy different when playing with a number of others, as opposed to your core members? Have you got anything special planned for Eistnaflug this year?
The Úlfsmessa was a great experience for everyone involved, and the audience too, judging by the massive applause and compliments we received afterwards. It was an experiment that challenged our abilities to the maximum. I'm sure we'll do something like this again in the future, when the time is right. When we finished the Úlfsmessa last year, we actually decided to never do it again. It absolutely wrecked us. But time heals all wounds and currently I'm in the new official Eistnaflug off-venue committee and we have started planning the next festival. I promise, we're going to do something superb, but since the old factory where the Úlfsmessa was held is to be torn down, it'll not be the same, but something fresh, something new. Definitely something to get excited about.
You've already confirmed Nidrosian Black Mass as well, and I've heard talk of other international dates, too. It must be expensive getting yourselves and all your gear out of Iceland and to other countries to tour—does the government help with these costs at all like it does in Scandinavia, or are you on your own?
Being in a band located in an isolated island has some boundaries. The government doesn't care at all about music that doesn't reach above the underground—for example, Svartidauði have never gotten any government support, even though they've succeeded enormously since releasing Flesh Cathedral in 2012. Icelandic indie bands with a smaller group of audience can get support if they sell out. That's not admirable in my opinion. Festivals usually pay flight tickets and other stuff, so if you're good enough to be wanted at festivals, you've had your break-through.
Kim Kelly can't wait for Eistnaflug this year; she's on Twitter.